Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Vatican Chooses Rigali Close Associate of Pope Will Take over Seat Left by Archbishop May

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Vatican Chooses Rigali Close Associate of Pope Will Take over Seat Left by Archbishop May

Article excerpt

Archbishop Justin F. Rigali, one of the most influential Americans at the Vatican, will be the new leader of the Archdiocese of St. Louis.

The Vatican is expected to announce the appointment today. Rigali, 58, replaces Archbishop John L. May, who is still battling the brain cancer that forced him to resign in December 1992.

Rigali's appointment comes as a surprise because he is a high-ranking Vatican official. He has served almost his entire career there, rising steadily through the ranks, and has no pastoral experience.

Reached in Rome on Monday, Rigali declined to comment on his appointment. He is expected to come to St. Louis later this week and make his first public appearance at a news conference, not yet scheduled.

Rigali, born in America, has been secretary to the Congregation of Bishops in Rome since 1989. In that position, he has influenced the appointment of bishops throughout the world. Before assuming that post, he was the first U.S. citizen to head the Vatican's diplomatic academy, known as the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy.

Vatican observers say Rigali is a close collaborator of Pope John Paul II and is on the fast-track to become a cardinal. They describe him as tight-lipped, hard-working and intelligent.

He is known for arriving early and working late at his office, next to St. Peter's Square. He lives in a Vatican-owned apartment just a couple hundred yards away.

Colleagues say Rigali is genuinely pious.

He works behind the scenes in the Vatican, never courting media attention. In that way, he is like May, who quietly led the archdiocese here for 13 years.

May could not be reached Monday for comment on the appointment.

Rigali's stands on issues are unknown. But observers presume he is doctrinely conservative and responsible for the appointments of some conservative U.S. bishops.

"He will mirror the pope's views right down the line," a Vatican observer said.

Having been one of the main players in the Vatican, Rigali is likely to be influential among U.S. bishops. "He's not going to fade into the fog," one source said.

The Congregation of Bishops probably will continue to ask him for advice on bishop appointments, observers said. …

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